Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Lady Sings the Blues
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

In this lesson, the character Shug Avery comes alive for students as they immerse themselves in the world of blues music and the real life models from which the character is based on. The lesson begins by examining Alice Walker's characterization of Shug Avery in THE COLOR PURPLE. Students then research the lives and music of blues singers such as Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday to find parallels between these singers, their lives and music, and Shug Avery herself.

Grade Level: 9-12

Time Allotment: 2 weeks (may take longer)

Subject Matter: English, Social Studies, Music

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
  • Write an essay comparing the life of Bessie Smith and/or Billie Holiday to the characters in THE COLOR PURPLE
  • Synthesize information from the novel, the Internet, and a musical anthology
  • Find patterns of meaning in several blues lyrics
  • Identify the characteristics of blues music

ELA (national)
Students will:
  • Identify the distinct qualities of literary genres and sub genres
  • Understand how literary elements and techniques convey meaning and add nuance and beauty to a written work
  • Read and understand literature of various cultures and eras
  • Identify, organize, analyze, and use information from various sources (research skills)
  • Understand and apply the concept of voice
Social Studies (New York State)
Students will:
  • Use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in the history of the United States
The Arts (Visual Arts, Music, Theatre) (New York State)
Students will:
  • Respond critically to a variety of works in the arts, connecting the individual work to other works and to other aspects of human endeavor and thought
  • Develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society
This lesson was developed by Amy Benjamin.